Houston Voter Guide 2019: City Council District C candidates

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With over a dozen candidates vying to represent Houston City Council District C, voters will see a crowded ballot. After eight years in office, Mayor Pro Tem and District C representative Ellen Cohen has reached her term limit. Community Impact Newspaper contacted each candidate with questions about their campaign priorities for the district which covers parts of Northwest Houston, the Heights, Montrose and Meyerland. All candidates are listed below in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Responses may have been edited for length.

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to include additional candidate responses.

Kevin Walker

Website: www.walker4houston.com

Occupation/Experience: I’ve lived in Montrose for 25+ years. I am a business owner and structural engineering surveyor.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
High density urban development such as mid- to high rise apartment complexes would be best suited to placement on larger collector streets with easier traffic flow and access to larger utility distribution lines. The quality, character and historic importance of existing structures also needs to be taken into consideration. For example a well preserved Victorian mansion would be more worth of preservation than a 1950’s mass produced ranch-style house.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Drainage is a major issue and needs to be addressed as a coordinated effort throughout the city. Sidewalks are not accessible and are in need of repair. One of our bridges in my district has a failing grade from American Society of Civil Engineers and must be repaired. Roads in my district are old and full of potholes that need to be patched.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Road repair is damaging cars and due to the age of the roads in my district, they are worse than other areas of town.

Amanda Wolfe

Website: www.wolfehearsyou.com

Occupation/Experience: copywriter and activist

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Building vertically and responsibly in neighborhoods like Montrose and The Heights and repurposing historic structures that are able to be saved.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
No longer allowing unchecked development to overtax our infrastructure and under-tax overseas investors. Levying an infrastructure fee upon new developers to help fix our aging drainage and roads.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Responsible development that cares for our longtime residents and small businesses.

Michelle Ganz

Website: www.michelleganz.com

Occupation/Experience: I am a student at the University of Saint Thomas. I have no political experience. I am not a polititian. I have experience in many different fields including the industrial construction, fitness, hospitality and retail industries. I think my experience uniquely qualifies me to represent the regular person because I am a regular person.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Houston should purposefully build inclusively and responsibly, while respecting the history of this city. Houston has never been good about respecting its history. If you do not believe me then look at Freedman’s Town. It is important that we hold on to our history and tell those stories. We need to build keeping in mind climate change and the influx of people moving here.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
I think it is important that we build for the future and take in consideration that climate change is bearing down on us. We need better flooding prevention. We also need a better transportation system. My vision for the future of our city is inclusive living. I see multi economic neighborhoods and efficient public transportation that will include improved bike lanes and walk paths.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
District C is an expansive district that includes many different neighborhoods. I think that the most pressing issue would differ depending on where one might live. In the neighborhoods that are on the outer limits of the district, such as Meyerland flooding is by far the most pressing issue, but in Montrose, where I live, I would say rising rents would be the issue that affects me the most.

Sean P. Marshall

Website: www.votefordistrictc.com

Occupation/Experience: Vice President Oil & Gas Investment Banking

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all solution to this question. City representatives must work with neighborhoods, civic organizations and individual constituents to ensure that urban development has a positive rather than negative affect on the quality of life.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Transportation and drainage projects are high priority improvements needed in District C. Old outdated streets need replacing with new ones that include high quality drainage and sidewalk systems. Residents should not dodge cars while walking down the street with their family or on their commute to work or school, and streets in the district should not flood after 30 minutes of hard rain.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Investing in our neighborhoods is the most important initiative facing District C. This includes advocating for improvements in infrastructure, ensuring residents have access to affordable housing and quality city services. I will use my business experience and education to diligently review the current City revenue sources and expense streams to assure the district’s tax revenue is wisely spent.

Gladys House

Website: N/A

Occupation/Experience: business owner

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Creation of plan with input of grassroot organizations, community workers and city planning; respect and implement concepts, ideas, etc.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Underground tunneling, comprehensive street repairs and sidewalks.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Taxation without representation.

Mary Jane Smith

Website: www.maryjanesmithforcouncil.com

Occupation/Experience: Retired political consultant, have lived, worked, been active 50+ years in “C”; started 20 + yr. successful business, active in 2 large civic clubs, numerous professional, charitable and political organizations; I am a product of “C” and know this district very well.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Neighborhoods strengthen themselves with strong enforceable civic club rules / regulations. These protect the majority and the minority
and represent the will of that neighborhood. This also protects historic neighborhoods.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Given recent multiple floods, we must improve/increase drainage, sewers and create more watersheds. Hardest hit areas get first funding.
Drainage tax must go 100% to flood mitigation, separate line item on budget, not in general fund.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
City needs to live within a budget, cut all un-necessary expenses so much needed drainage, flood mitigation, and street repair is addressed. Public safety: a healthy budget will allow for more police and firefighters.

Bob Nowak

Website: www.bobnowalk.org

Occupation/Experience: I am the City of Houston Webmaster and have worked with and among the highest levels of City government and their staffs during my entire quarter century in public service.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
3,000 people are moving into District C every year, meaning more than 10,000 cars have been added to our destination neighborhoods in the last four years. Out of necessity, we will be sharing our roads with various methods of transportation. I support bicycle-pedestrian friendly islands at selected intersections, and wider sidewalks in new projects and developments.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Foremost — Flooding and drainage improvements

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Flooding and Drainage

Abbie Kamin

Website: www.abbiekamin.com

Occupation/Experience:
As a civil rights attorney and neighborhood advocate, I’ve learned you can never stop fighting for what matters most. I serve on the Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence. I’ve pushed government to improve on issues from discrimination and hate crimes to voting rights and protecting foster children. Most recently, I was the Associate Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League. Now I’m fighting for every resident in every neighborhood – for timely trash and recycling pickup, safe streets and sidewalks, the highest standards of flood protection, and all the quality services expected of a great city.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Some days, it seems like the ground is shifting right under our feet – and with all the booming development and redevelopment, it literally is. I know residents who live near new highrises and new, dense developments who have seen their water pressure drop, their risk of flooding increase, and traffic in their neighborhoods become unmanageable. Established neighborhoods are changing rapidly, and the city needs to do a better job of responding. I am very concerned that neighbors are bearing the brunt of these impacts. I’m ready to start a serious conversation about correcting this imbalance.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Streets, sidewalks and drainage – hands down. Many parts of our district are in some of the oldest parts of Houston. On the street where I live, there are parts with no sidewalks. Just walking with our dog Roosevelt, or seeing neighbors with their children in the street, can be a hair-raising experience. The good news is that the federal government is finally starting to release Hurricane Harvey recovery dollars. That means important projects that have been on hold at the city, like street reconstruction projects, can get moving again. As a council member, I’ll be pushing hard for my constituents.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?

Keeping water out of our homes tops the list. District C includes many areas hit hardest by Harvey and Tax Day and Memorial Day floods. I’ve proposed a set of practical steps to reduce the risk – from enhanced warning systems to basic maintenance of storm sewers and ditches to speeding up neighborhood drainage projects. And even when our homes are high and dry, driving there is like navigating an obstacle course. I’m pushing to improve transparency in the city’s infrastructure program, bring more projects into our neighborhoods where they are needed, and better notify residents about construction delays.

Rodney Hill

Website: www.facebook.com/rodneyhillcitycouncil/

Occupation/Experience: Retired HPD Sgt 40 years. 10 year SWAT Officer. 25 years supervising Gang Task Force, FBI/HPD Terrorism Task Force. Mental Health, Crisis Response Teams. Addressed State Legislators for Statewide Citizens Protections. Highest Level of Security for the Federal Govt for working FBI cases. Interrogated Enemy Combatants in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Depends on the neighborhood and what the citizens of that neighborhood want. And resources available to accomplish the said project. I personally believe we should preserve as much of our history as a city as possible.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Right now… Flood mitigation, storm sewer repair or replacement.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Flooding. If we don’t do something meaningful to mitigate or stop flooding, District C is going to lose all measure as a livable community.

Daphne Scarborough

Website: www.daphnefordistrictc.com

Occupation/Experience: Businesswoman/owner of The Brass Maiden since 1982, 37 yrs. business construction experience, 15 yrs. of community meetings, Federal hearings, TxDoT hearings, State Senate, State House, City Council, Bellaire City Council on Transportation, Special Districts and Green Space preservation. 37 years of non-profit boards and volunteerism.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Preserve the character and affordability of our neighborhoods. City Code needs to protect the parking, sunlight , greenspace and flooding issues of tall buildings adjacent to single story homes.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Clean and replace the drainage pipes. Leaky pipes need to be replaced before the roads can be fixed, moisture destroys the black topping from underneath. More sewage capacity so that it is not stored in the lines. Frequent floods take it to the Bayous and on to the Gulf of Mexico, where it does not belong. More street rebuilding before 10 ft. sidewalks get built.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Street rebuilding

Candelario Cervantez

Website: www.candelarioforhouston.com

Occupation/Experience: MBA, National Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Business Development Executive

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
We should embrace our growth because our people are our strength. Given this, we should also look at ensuring the community members that have lived in our communities for generations and have built the neighborhoods our new residents now want to reside are not being displaced. Looking at development through an equity lens is something I would communicate and push.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
We need build for the future rather than the present. Neighborhood infrastructure wasn’t designed to support our growth, which is why we have these issues of pedestrian safety, mobility, roads disrepair and drainage. Community members have shared that we need to focus on infrastructure to manage flooding, paving & drainage projects in conjunction with including bike lanes.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Given divers needs of our neighborhoods it has been challenging to narrow down one pressing issue. One that has emerged is that many in our community don’t know who to contact to report an issue. Ensuring all community members have access to these resources and contact information would be a major priority. The second thing is community members need timely trash, recycling and heavy trash pick-up.

Shelley Kennedy

Website: www.kennedyforhouston.com

Occupation/Experience: I have served on community boards and volunteered for non-profits all my life. I have a record of achievement working as a community leader and political advocate that yields results. Under the last two mayors, I have been appointed to City Commissions (KHB Commission & IPOB). I know one of the most effective ways to bring about change is through the implementation of policies, and I am a policy wonk and a budget geek. I have been fiercely advocating for the people of Houston for decades as a driving force for positive change.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
The lack of affordable housing within the city is a threat to our future and economic development. I favor revitalization of vulnerable neighborhoods in a manner that maintains the character of the community and results in affordable housing with access to neighborhood amenities like grocery stores, restaurants, city services and public transportation. Young professionals, graduating college students and future innovators want a city where they can live, work and play. Prospective employers want to locate in a city that not only has protection from catastrophic flooding, but offers affordable housing, robust public transportation,
green space and recreation areas.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
The city has failed to adequately address necessary upgrades to our drainage system and infrastructure in District C. Among the bad news is that we have been building roads incorrectly since the 70s. The good news is we now know how to do it right. As we are in the process of several street re-construction
projects, we need to also be addressing the sewer lines. I will also advocate for Houston to become a more walkable city with pedestrian activated crosswalks. We have several dangerous intersections in District C, and I’ve made it a top priority to make them safer.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
With the current climate crisis, flooding poses the most significant threat to our city. We need a comprehensive city-county plan to vastly improve flood control, emergency evacuation, shelters and housing for flood refugees. Also, in District C, the city is falling short on basic city services like trash pickup, street maintenance, sewer repair, and dangerous intersections. With the challenges and opportunities we are facing, it is more important than ever to have a fierce advocate for progressive values and innovation on the local level.

Greg Meyers

Website: www.gregmeyersforhouston.com

Occupation/Experience: I am currently CFO for Kickstart Kids and an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas. Previously, I built, operated, and then sold a successful small dental company. I am the only candidate in this race with any experience crafting a multi-billion dollar municipal budget, where I led the effort to implement a zero-based budget and saved Houston taxpayers almost $100 million. With the City continuing to pass structurally unbalanced budgets, it is imperative that we elect a proven leader with the background and experience to be a watchdog for your tax dollars.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Strong communities start with strong neighborhoods. With a no zoning policy, neighborhood deed restrictions serve as an important part of preserving historic neighborhoods. We must strike an appropriate balance between the great economic development in the City and maintaining our quality of life. A strategic plan to focus on making neighborhoods more walkable and bike friendly will also help maintain this balance as areas of the City become more dense.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
District C accounts for only 3.5% of the total City-wide Capital Improvement Project budget but contributes more tax dollars than any other council district. More than 50% of this funding goes to various TIRZ across District C. We must ensure the TIRZ’s are transparent and accountable, and that these tax dollars are used properly. I would focus funding efforts on drainage and infrastructure improvements based on a worst-first priority, and I would ensure that taxes collected for infrastructure are not diverted. Finally, we need to coordinate efforts with other jurisdictions and work with school districts on a Safe Sidewalk program.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
I believe the most pressing issue that we will face is the budget. If we cannot get our budget under control and focus on core services, our District and the City will not be able to address any other critical issues, such as public safety, flood mitigation, and ensuring basic city services are performed on time. We can only accomplish these priorities if we keep a laser focus on the budget.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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